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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Multilingual undergraduate writers' discourse socialization in a sheltered academic English program Haggerty, John


Most universities in English-dominant countries have been competing to attract multilingual learners for some time, inspired by the dual need for brain power and income generation (Lee, Maldonado-Maldonado, & Rhodes, 2006). In the Canadian context, this has resulted in rising international student populations (Anderson, 2015) and the expansion of increasingly sophisticated academic language programs (Fox, Cheng, & Zumbo, 2014). Despite this, external research into the effectiveness and appropriateness of these programs from the perspectives of the students enrolled remains scarce (Keefe & Shi, 2017). This multiple case study involves six multilingual learners enrolled in a newly-designed academic language program in a Canadian university. This first-year program provided content and academic language courses in two disciplinary areas (Arts and Sciences), which upon successful completion, qualified students for their second year in the university mainstream. In this study, I investigate how students responded to program design features and academic writing instruction. I incorporate multiple interviews with students, collection of their written assignments and feedback, observations of classrooms and other educational events, interviews with other program stakeholders, and collection of program documents. Of the six student participants in this study, four were successful and two were less successful. For the four successful students, participation in the sheltered program was perceived as an overall beneficial experience that helped them make a positive transition to mainstream studies. However, responses to academic writing instruction and practice were highly variable and influenced by students’ backgrounds and their educational or disciplinary beliefs. For two less successful students, notions of agency, identity, and appropriation became influential in their transitions as they increasingly reported confusion, frustration, and conflict in meeting academic expectations. Results suggest there are several opportunities and challenges involved in the integration of sophisticated theoretical and pedagogical approaches, some of which may not be realized for some time after instruction has ceased. The study highlights an ongoing need to: 1) (re)consider the time needed and the degree of complexity involved in academic writing instruction and, 2) maximize alignment of pedagogical objectives with multilingual learners’ backgrounds as well as their perceived academic and disciplinary writing needs.

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